The Expatriates’ Mother Network

I never thought that moving abroad would result in gaining more friends than I had before I left. I thought my journey as an expat would be lonely and that I would struggle to find like-minded people. Instead, I have met many soul mates and genuine connections from various backgrounds and cultures. When I became an expat, I became a part of a dynamic network that would grow even stronger and larger when I had a baby.

As an expatriate mother in Indonesia, my life support system is my fellow expatriate mothers. I connect with these women through WhatsApp messaging, Facebook and social meetings. The most surprising part of this friendship is that they do not necessarily live in Indonesia and I haven’t met most of them face to face, and probably never will. And yet, these women are behind me, and will undoubtedly cheer for me, offering round the clock support, 24/7, no matter where I am in the world. Wow!

The value of this global community cannot be overstated. Although most husbands are the expats with the careers bringing their families into new countries, it’s the mothers who will influence where and how her family will live when they get there. Women are, by nature, very open and sharing. When you bring lonely mothers into this mix, especially those who are away from family and are living abroad, the vulnerability fuels this innate trait of ours to gather and over-share everything. Intimate details, long stories of struggles and joys. Questions and fears… we are all sharing our innermost thoughts daily, and shaping critical decisions for our families – big decisions such as which condos to rent, which schools to enrol with, where to shop and which doctors to see. It will even influence social welfare and lifestyle choices.

I have been an expat for seven years and three countries now. With my knowledge and experience of expatriating into new destinations, I am a true believer in this network and its strength. Before my move to Jakarta, I had already tapped into the power of this network as a member of a Singaporean mothers’ Facebook group called “Stork’s Nest Singapore,” which has over 10,000 members. By simply introducing myself, I made connections that would serve a lifetime of purposes. When it was time to leave to my next posting at Jakarta, I used my existing network of friends and social networking to discover a similar Facebook support group called “Jakarta Moms Support Group.” This was the only tool I needed for my move and a new group of 1,000 women were within my reach. I moved virtually into Jakarta before I moved physically.

Through this single connection, women who sympathised and understood my fear of moving to Jakarta welcomed me and made me feel at ease. They understood my anxieties and offered me advice on how to maximise my new life here. They detailed the safest way to bathe my newborn with clean, filtered water. They reassured me that I could readily purchase the specific lactose-free formula for my colic baby and gave me advice on what critical items to ship across. An international move with young children is so stressful, but knowing that there were other mothers out there who understood my fears made the move much less daunting.

These networks reach further than online and exist all over if you are willing to get yourself out there. I found solace through friends I made at the ANZA and BWA welcoming coffees. Connecting to associations within your new country is essential for your well-being. They are a great place for new expats because everyone there is looking for a new friend or has someone they can introduce you to. They also organise regular social events that you can attend without actually knowing anyone.

What I’ve learned is that these networks are a loneliness buster. As an expat mother, I need the support of someone who understands my unique struggles. Yes, I have friends and families back at home who can definitely answer my questions on how to soothe a teething baby or how to overcome my sleep deprivation problems. However, due to the time difference and lifestyle variations between my hometown and my current city, these support networks are not enough. I need to have a “posse” that shares my struggles and lives through my frustrations, every day. Only my expatriate mother’s network will understand the feeling of being stuck at home because of the traffic. Or not having a car for the day because my husband has taken it for his important meeting. And then the sheer agony of rushing a sick child to a hospital in a taxi where the driver doesn’t understand me, only to meet a doctor who seems to be practicing medicine taught from a Dummies Guide handbook, and a hospital that doesn’t have the critical medication prescribed. In the middle of these situations, I can quickly text my “Yummy Mummies Jakarta” WhatsApp chat and have a handful of women offering help on what to do next. A friend will send her driver to pick me up. A woman whom I haven’t even met yet will send me the medication that I need and another mother will offer to have my other children over to her place for dinner while I’m away.

And so, with each international move, and fellow expats moving abroad, this network grows. I now continue daily chats with women in other expat locations and forums, migrating our network across the globe.  As a member of this powerful network, I love nothing more than sharing its ability to reach out and help another expat mama in need. I know that no matter where I move to next, these women will also be there for me and will continue to help me on my next adventure abroad. I too, will be there, extending a helping hand to others in need.

This article was originally published at Indonesia Expat

Giving birth in Indonesia

Many expats are reluctant to give birth in Indonesia due to the unfamiliarity and mistrust of the medical system. Another common concern is simply being stuck in traffic during labour. Expats may also have inadequate medical insurance coverage or prefer to be in the comforts of their home country with family nearby. I had two children under the age of three when I was expecting my third child, so it was logistically easier for us to stay in Jakarta for the birth. Here are some things you may like to consider if you are expecting during your time in Indonesia.

RETURNING TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY FOR THE BIRTH

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Our vacation at Singapore Airport!

We had to do a quick dash out of Jakarta to Singapore for a visa renewal. We had the choice of flying in and out again, in one day; or staying overnight. With three young kids under 5, a day trip, regardless of the short distance to Singapore, is still exhausting. Our day begins at 5am where we get an early flight (to avoid traffic) and we don’t reach our destination until the afternoon. From the excitement of flying on an airplane and missing their naps, my kids are so tired (and feral). I can’t imagine immediately boarding a plane to return home again!

So we decided to stay the night at The Crowne Plaza Airport hotel in Changi Airport, Singapore. We chose to make this an adventure for our kids and show them a fun time.

Crowne Plaza is the perfect hotel to stay in for an overnight visa run. Having the ability to watch airplanes take off and land directly from our hotel room was a dream for our children. We had two interconnecting rooms and there was plenty of space for our family of 5. The hotel is also very focused on efficiency and convenience.

We arrived at Singapore airport during lunch time and had a special treat of MacDonalds in Terminal 3. The kids needed a reboot and a Happy Meal was perfect. We checked into our hotel where they all had a very late nap at 3pm. After a nice swim at the hotel’s pool, we headed out for dinner. Instead of eating a boring meal at the hotel, we decided to go and explore Terminal 3 again and enjoy the amazing facilities there.

We literally had hundreds of activities and restaurants to choose from! The kids went sightseeing at the amazing Indonesian Tourism exhibition where they had a robotic Kodmodo dragon. The installation had swings, bridges, telescopes and a mini Borobudur! There was also a carnival with rides and games!

We enjoyed a very kid friendly meal at Pastamania where they had kids meals with activity sets that we later used on our trip home. Our children traced patterns with crayons, watched some cartoons and played at the terminal’s playground. We were also able to buy some groceries at a mini supermarket, Cold Storage. There were also lots of retail and designer shops too. The sky train was also a hit.

It was a fun break and it felt like we were away for weeks! Unfortunately, doing a visa run and being forced to leave the comforts of our home is not an enjoyable experience. I generally still don’t enjoy traveling with my kids because they are still so young. It’s exhausting and difficult. I don’t get any sleep because the children are out of routine and tired. We had several meltdowns, including from myself! If there’s a way of making this process easier, then our mini vacation definitely was the best solution.

So next time you’re passing through Singapore airport, take your time and look around. It’s a great place and definitely family-friendly fun!

Mummies’ Night Out: Alternatives For Non-Clubbing Mums

I love nothing more than going out with my mummy friends and spending a night off from the usual family obligations. However, a “Mummies’ Night Out” doesn’t always need to equate to outdated dance moves on a sticky nightclub dance floor. With many businesses operating until 10pm each night, the options for a night out with friends are endless in Indonesia. Here are a few of my favourite alternatives for non-clubbing mums: Continue reading

Hiring a Nanny in Indonesia

One of the advantages of living in Indonesia is being able to hire a nanny for your children. Expats, however, sometimes imagine nannies to be a cheery “Mary Poppins” lady with tactical child-minding powers and a skillset to cure all childhood issues. The reality of a nanny in Indonesia may be far from this foreign perception. Skills like first aid, child discipline, and childhood play are not always a part of the package. Becoming a nanny in Indonesia requires no specific vocational training or work experience. Continue reading

Discovering WA in a Campervan

Whenever expats ask me for advice on where to travel overseas to from Jakarta, I suggest Western Australia and not the other parts of Asia. The capital city of Western Australia is only a four-and-a-half-hour direct flight with Garuda Indonesia. There aren’t many other countries that you can fly to directly from Jakarta, therefore the west coast of Australia is a perfect destination for families who seek fresh air and open spaces.

Western Australia is exactly what you would imagine Australia to look like. Continue reading

Ramadan… it’s not about you

Ramadan starts tomorrow and there has been a few confused posting on expat forums about general working hours and normal routines of their household staff members during this period (ie. nannies and maids). Questions of what to expect from household staff during the fasting month and if it’s reasonable to offer special time off or shorter working hours to accommodate. I think these are very reasonable questions and topics to be discussed.

What I don’t appreciate are the string of negative responses from certain people. The comments are disrespectful, dehumanizing and mostly, not related to the issue at hand. Continue reading

Living greener in Indonesia

Sometimes I think that the only way I can live as an environmentally-conscious member of society is to hide away under a rock and reject the advances of modern civilisation. Of course, this isn’t realistic but the issue seems so large that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. When I first moved into my condo in Jakarta, I was told that our building doesn’t recycle. Apparently, all of the rubbish from our condo will eventually be sorted and magically make its way into a recycling centre somewhere. As an expat it’s difficult to find answers, so I accepted this explanation and carried on with my life of non-recycling. Eventually it ate me up and so I started to make incremental changes to our household.

Trying to live greener in Jakarta takes time and effort. It involves more planning and foresight. However, with the right resources, it is possible. Here are some tips on how to live as a greener family in Indonesia. Continue reading